Panoramic of the Roof Garden July 21, 2007.
The following was found in my archives and is dated for July 14.
The rooftop garden is coming along beautifully this year. I do believe it is my best year yet. I was shocked to discover that on final count I am growing 14 tomato plants and 2 tomatillos. Most of the tomatoes are mid-sized determinants and 3 are indeterminants. I am growing the same number of tomatoes at my community garden plot with a grand total that far surpasses the total number of tomatoes I have ever been able to grow at one time. Thrilling! And yet it still doesn’t feel like enough. When I think of how hard it was to narrow things down to these varieties, I pine for all of the varieties I could grow at one time if given more space. Sigh. And yet I have so much more than most gardening, apartment-dwelling city-slickers. The more I garden, the more I want to garden and the grander my ideas grow. It is hard to be satiated with limitations. After all of these years there is still so much that the process of gardening is teaching me about patience and feeling satisfied with accomplishments within any given moment.
Lately, I have been receiving emails asking me to talk more about the community garden. I will admit that I am so horribly behind in writing about progress there that it’s been difficult to know where to begin. So this morning I browsed through a few folders of photos and decided to begin with the above photo showing some of my plot (to the right) and a few other garden member’s plots around it.
I took this photo on August 9. This was before The Worst Drought in Toronto in 50 Years kicked in followed by the Worst Drought Plus Massive Humidity but NO Rain. That was the week many curcubits (the family that includes cucumbers, squash, and melons) died. I lost most of my cucumbers and most of my zucchini plants that week. I am posting this picture so you can see what that side of the garden looked like before the gapping hole. I’m still trying to figure out what to put there because the soil is great and it would be a shame to let even a small portion of the space go without producing something before the season comes to an end!
I took the above photo on August 25. It was a wet Saturday morning, having finally rained after several days of intense humidity. It was a beautiful, quiet morning in the garden. I thoroughly enjoyed the solitude listening to the buzz of crickets and the soothing hum of the Beer Store refrigerators. By this time it is already too late for my zucchini plants. They have loads of fruit on them but the stems have rotted. You can see how yellow the leaves have turned — it was all within a matter of days! I picked all the fruit that morning and removed the plants a few days later once I’d had some time to come to terms with the loss. It was a good year and we harvested a lot of flowers and fruit earlier in the season but in past years I have managed to collect zucchinis into fall. I was wearing a winter jacket when I pulled out last year’s plants! The loss of all that potential harvest still bums me out a little.
Here it is, photographic proof that last year’s zucchini plants came out in October. Mind you those tiny little things in my other hand are the last of the “harvest.”
On a positive note, scroll back up to that last shot of the garden and check out all of the ripe tomatoes! With 16 plants, I have had my best harvest ever. Their size and numbers have dwindled but tomatoes are still coming and I am harvesting at least 2 handfuls every few days. Of course it doesn’t FEEL like enough. I actually had surplus this year between the harvest on the roof and the harvest in the community garden allowing me to can up jars of tomatoes in addition to the purchased 50 lbs that were made into sauce and salsa. We can’t eat enough tomato sandwiches and salads to keep on top of the fresh tomatoes from the gardens and yet I am still wanting more. Last year’s 5 jars felt… okay. This year’s 35 jars… My god how will we make it through the winter?!! I may have a slight hoarding tendency.
Here’s a photo of the first big cluster of ‘Zapotec Pink Pleated’ tomatoes. Aren’t they beautiful? I have a secret wish that tomatoes would just last a little longer. They are all so beautiful that I just love having bowls sitting around to look at and admire. Unfortunately the fruit flies also enjoy them but I do not enjoy the fruit flies. Of all the new varieties I tried this year, ‘Zapotec Pink Pleated’ has turned out to be a very prolific plant and a new favorite. This particular cluster held one additional tomato but I was impatient and plucked it off early for a taste.
I had a TV crew here for about 2 hours one scorching hot and humid afternoon in August shooting a segment on heirloom vegetables for a show called “Living in Toronto.” There are other “Living ins” across Canada however the first is set to air tomorrow afternoon.
Details: CBC “Living in Toronto”, 1pm – 1:30pm.
My rooftop garden as seen from underneath the tent.
Here I am with the segment producer Myrocia preparing for a tomato-tasting bit. Did I mention the unbearable heat and humidity? By the time this picture was taken I had completely given up on any attempt to look TV-ready. I had to dab my face with a towel between takes. Good times!
Yesterday afternoon, while working on the garden, a woman stopped to chat and mentioned that she had seen my sad and pathetic sign (my words, not hers) and knew who had destroyed the day lilies. It was the dudes who change the advertising on the large billboard that hangs on the wall over the garden! She said that she watched in horror as they intentionally trampled all over the plants — something they did not have to do since there was plenty of room and their equipment wasn’t in the garden and made it possible for them to avoid the garden completely. Never mind the fact that the garden has been sharing space with that billboard for years with minor consequences beyond the annoying lights, the pigeon poop that falls from the nests housed in the billboard structure, and the stray pieces of advertising that falls into the plants. That and the fact that we have to look at ugly advertising splashed onto the side of our building everyday.
As a city-dweller I have become very good at seeing without seeing. So good in fact that I can not provide even a hint as to the content of the current ad and the only ad I can recall in all the years the billboard has been up was for a film with Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino. Something with Al Pacino as the devil.
Anyway, I stood there speechless, listening to the details unfold and thinking that there is some kind of irony in this somewhere given that I had been working on finally trying to fix that patch when she happened by, and feeling sore that I have had to suffer both a financial and personal time loss while my landlord reaps the benefits of that damned billboard AND my hard work. Gah! At the very least I now know to whom I can call and send my complaints.
Still no idea who went after the thistles but I have since replaced that patch with a native switch grass, Panicum virgatum. As previously mentioned, I am intensely nostalgic and possibly a little nuts in the ways that I anthropomorphize plants. This is only made worse by the fact that each plant comes with a story and a history. Like the daylilies that were gifted to me by a friend. Or the yarrow that was given to me by a stranger who happened to be driving by with a clump of yarrow in the backseat of her car. In many cases I can recall where and when I received or purchased the plant. These feelings of attachment and compassion for the life of each plant is so strong at times that it is very difficult for me to remove and discard plants, even when I know it is beneficial to the garden. I’ve also got a stubborn streak that thinks I can shove one more plant in somewhere or bring that diseased plant back past the point of no return. My style is very Do As I Say, Not As I Do and I often struggle with the very actions I know to be right and advise other people to carry out. The only positive I can glean from the Operation Garden Terrorism experience is that it has prematurely forced me to carry out my long term plan to replace some of the more invasive gift plants with natives. But just because I can find a positive doesn’t mean I’ll be thanking the ad hanging dudes or the thistle stomping stranger anytime soon.
The bottoms of all of the ‘Purple Calabash’ tomatoes are so bumpy and misshapen that they are morphing into cartoonish grumpy old man faces as they ripen and mature. Today a friend remarked that we are so programmed to accept perfectly smooth-shaped produce that people often refer to lumpy heirloom tomato varieties as “ugly.” We both agreed that it is their irregularity that makes them so beautiful much in the way that I can study the portrait of a grumpy old man’s face for hours because there is so much to see in every crease, bump, and scar.
Maybe tomatoes are not the best produce to illustrate my point because when push comes to shove I like most tomatoes, smooth, bumpy, pink, purple, or otherwise. I suppose it’s just that within a sea of uniformity unusual shapes and colors are fascinating. They taste better too! And maybe I grew up with enough of a certain kind of pop culture influencing my sense of taste that I just can’t resist the charm of anthropomorphic produce.
Today I traded some garlic and tomatoes from my garden for two tomatoes: a ‘Paul Robeson’ and an ‘Aunt Ginny’s.’ Another round of tomato testing is in order.